A Chance to Create Value
by Michael Cloutier
32 years old
I took opiates for over 10 years, which included an addiction to heroin. I couldn’t keep a job and lost connection with my family and friends.
When I was in rehab, one of the caretakers introduced me to chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. After I got out, I received the Gohonzon on May 3, 2015.
Less than a year into my practice, my faith was really tested when my grandma, who had raised me, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I had been supporting SGI-USA activities behind the scenes, chanting and taking care of her, but I reached a breaking point when she passed away in May 2016. By this time, I had already relapsed and wanted to give up my Buddhist practice, but my connection with other members helped me continue.
Wanting to do something drastic, I left for China that September to teach English. It was very difficult, but for some reason when I started teaching, the children lifted my spirits. Gradually, on my own, I started chanting more and more, but this time it was different. I was chanting with gratitude, appreciating the fact that I had not only a second chance in life but a chance to do something positive. Teachers have direct contact with youth and can help them become better people. I also stopped using drugs during my time in China and have since stayed sober.
I returned to the U.S. last year, determined to reestablish myself in society. I was also recently appointed the young men’s leader for my district. I am now working toward my goal of becoming an elementary and middle school teacher to help struggling youth develop conviction, just as I have.
For me, “One Youth. Infinite Hope.” means that when you reach out and connect with someone, that bond and its impact are everlasting— lifetime after lifetime, infinite hope continues to grow and strengthen.